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Healthy Family Vacation Tips Series


I’m starting a series on healthy family vacation tips. Parents with children know vacation traveling is difficult and making healthy choices while on vacation can seem like an impossible task. I was approached by a colleague about starting a series on healthy family vacation tips and thought it was a wonderful idea! Below is her post and one of mine. I would love to hear some of your tips. Simply add some of your tips to the comments section of this article. If they are unique, I will post them, with your permission of course, to this series and we can all share family vacation tips to make sure this summer is filled with fun, sun, and family fitness!

Guest Post:

Fitness on a Family Vacation

by Kendra Thornton (twitter: @KendraThornton)

At home, my family does a great job of making good, healthy choices. We eat well and work to stay fit. My kids participate in sports, and we make a point of getting exercise together as a family. Vacation time presents new challenges, but I’ve also found ways to keep our healthy habits alive when we are trotting the globe.

Avoid Airport Food
If you’re flying to and from your destination, avoid eating airport food. Many of the offerings available in food courts here are full of fat and empty calories. Instead, pack healthy snacks for the family to enjoy. You can also pick up fruit and other healthy foods at airport newsstands. Avoiding greasy food before a flight will help the whole family feel better during the flight as well.

Stay Hydrated
Make sure your family drinks plenty of water while on vacation. This is especially important if you’re traveling to a warm and sunny destination. Drinking water helps rehydrate the body and helps you avoid heatstroke. I always pack a water bottle for each family member. For hot days in the sun, I often pop those bottles in the freezer for a while before we leave to get them nice and cold.

Eat Well When Eating Out
On vacation, you will eat out. I try to follow the same guidelines that I use when we eat out near our home. I choose restaurants that offer healthy options. Mediterranean restaurants or places with vegetarian fare are always good spots to get a healthy meal. Replace greasy, unhealthy sides with options such as steamed vegetables or a fruit plate.

Vacation can destroy a workout routine, but there are always ways to get good exercise. As a family, we like to walk as much as possible on vacation. We walk rather than taking shuttles to nearby attractions. We even make a game of taking the stairs instead of elevators. If a little one gets tired on the way back to the hotel, my husband or I get an extra workout by carrying a child.

Changes in routine can make healthy choices more difficult. With a little advanced planning, however, you can easily keep your family on the road to health wherever you go. I will certainly be using these easy tricks on our upcoming family vacation to Florida. We always like booking hotels that have a nice gym. With so many places to stay, this task can be difficult. Sites like Gogobot make it easy to read user reviews so you can know exactly what you and your family will be getting into. I find that sticking to healthy habits on vacation makes returning to the routine at home easier.


Don’t Take a Vacation from Good Health when Traveling with Kids

Niagara Falls Adams family
The Adams family visits Niagara Falls

Vacations are exciting, and as parents of young children know all too well, few and far between! As a work-from-home dad to a set of extremely active six-year old twin boys, major parts of each day are set aside to ensure my family gets healthy food on the table and in their lunch boxes. My wife and I live healthy lifestyles and make sure the entire family puts health first. We make meal-planning a family affair, encourage our kids’ kitchen curiosity by letting them ‘help’ with recipes, and always plan physically active activities as well as go to a local gym that has a childcare facility that is more that just a babysitter putting them in front of a TV while we workout. While maintaining a happy and healthy home with kiddos isn’t easy, it sure isn’t as hard as doing it while on vacation. Whether it is a quick weekend trip to a local campsite, or a longer plane trip to visit historical sites, we don’t let vacations derail us from making healthy choices for our family.  With some planning, packing, and perusing, you can have a healthy vacation with your family, too! Here are a few tips to have fun with the family on your next trip, while still maintaining your healthy ways.

Car Trips
If you are sight-seeing the American way via your beloved automobile, a fast food restaurant will be strategically located at every major exit and will draw your children’s attention faster than you can accelerate past them. Packing snacks and lunches are essential to making healthy eating choices on a road trip. Take a few extra minutes before leaving to pack a cooler with easy, finger foods like fruits, cheese sticks, PB&Js, and even a few ready-to-drink protein shakes to keep everyone satisfied until you no longer here the ubiquitous “are we there yet?”. Don’t forget to include several bottles of water to stay hydrated and avoid stopping to simply get drinks, which we all know usually requires us to be bombarded with unhealthy temptations! Make stops when possible at roadside parks to stretch and let the little ones burn off their anxious energy. After all, you can’t sit still too long, don’t forget they can’t either.

Air Travel
If you are courageous and taking the entire family on a trip requiring air travel, there are also simple choices you can make to stay healthy. Do your best to avoid eating at the airport. Throw a few pieces of fruit and some healthy meal replacement or granola-type bars in your travel bag and distribute these once you successfully navigate the chaos that is the security check point. Since you can’t take in liquids, look for a kiosk at the airport selling water, you will often find healthier choices at these kiosks just in case you didn’t pack any sustenance before leaving for the airport. Have an hour to wait before boarding? Once you find your gate, don’t sit down. You will be doing this for the next several hours. Take this time to walk around the airport terminal to get exercise and entertain the kids. Make an ‘I Spy’ type of adventure out of it; this will help time pass and get you moving at the same time.

Final Destination
Whether you arrive by plane, train, or automobile, your healthy choices should continue while on vacation. Again, avoid fast-food restaurants when choosing meals and opt for local establishments or family-oriented ones that you know have healthier choices available. I encourage you to look online before you leave and find restaurants where you will be vacationing. Many now have their menus online so you can have a better idea what to expect when dining out. When making hotel reservations, ask for a mini-fridge to be placed in your room so you can keep healthy snacks, like yogurt, cheese, and fruits available for those late night munchies and bypass the vending machine. My wife and I like to get our workouts in while on vacation. We always choose hotels that have a fitness facility. Since we can’t just leave our kids to destroy the hotel room, we work out a schedule and each take turns in the gym. Working out on the road, in a new gym, can oftentimes give new life to your old workout routine. Not a workout nut? Well, it’s never too late to start, so be sure to pack some gym clothes and make this your healthiest vacation ever! But don’t leave your fitness at the hotel gym; walk with your family as much as possible while vacationing. Instead of expensive cab rides, walk to your fun-filled activities and sight-seeing excursions. Find a local park and play frisbee, rent bikes, or go on a nature hunt. Vacationing with your kids doesn’t have to be spent waiting in line; get outside and get moving!

Vacations are meant to be relaxing and a break from our ordinary routines. However, traveling with your children can be quite stressful and it is easy to make unhealthy choices. With a little pre-vacation planning, you can ensure your family has a fun and healthy trip and you only bring home souvenirs, not extra pounds!

Be well and have a healthy and fit vacation,

Dr. A


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